Issues
This document was authored by Community Activist Howard Myers.

Height & Density vs. Quality of Life: More height and density certainly increase developers' profits, but they also decrease residents' quality of life. Height destroys views and produces a bland, generic urban experience that dilutes Scottsdale's small town look and feel. Height and density have a negative impact on tourism because they destroy what visitors come here to see and experience. Similarly, higher density increases congestion, again destroying Scottsdale's small town look, feel, and more relaxed atmosphere. Increased height and density inevitably produce increased traffic congestion, noise and pollution, resulting in a decrease in the quality of life for Scottsdale residents.

Cost of development - Sustainability: It has been proven that development does not pay for itself and that our tourism industry provides the positive income vs. expense to balance the loss created by development. With more development, specifically high density residential, that balance will change requiring residents to pay higher taxes to offset the loss created by this additional development. There are two documents on this web site that help to illustrate this. The first is the Fiscal Sustainability Analysis the city created. It shows a slight positive balance between income and expenses, but it has two major flaws. The first is that it does not include the impact of tourism on the city's income and instead applies all the sales tax income to offset the expenses created by development. This creates the false impression that more development would be good financially. The second flaw is that it divides the city into three areas, north, central, and south, and applies all the sales tax income to the point of sale (where the store is located) instead of spreading it across the three areas based on the number of households in each area. The analysis concludes that the northern part of the city, which is much lower in population density than the other two parts, does not pay for itself because its sales tax income is less that its expenses. It ignores the fact that residents from the north travel to the central and southern parts of the city to shop. Because of these two major flaws, the conclusions of the analysis are totally false.

We have included another document (Fiscal Sustainability Report Review) that analyzes the same numbers, but includes the impact of tourism and allocates the sales tax created by residents to households. It shows that tourism supports the city and development does not pay for itself. It also shows that low density housing creates less of a negative balance than high density housing. We encourage you to read both documents. An understanding of what makes the city work financially is critical to figuring out what the city needs to focus on and answers the question, "is more growth good or bad for Scottsdale?"

Tourism's Positive Impact on Scottsdale and Its Residents: The Fiscal Sustainability Report Review clearly shows how tourism's positive impact on Scottsdale is really what makes Scottsdale sustainable and allows us to have and maintain world class amenities without the high taxes that would normally be required to build and maintain them. The visioning process that took place in the 1990s came out with the same conclusion.

The four dominant themes that came out of that visioning process were:
  • Sonoran Desert: Our growth and development should proceed with clear awareness of the impact on our rare and beautiful environment.
  • Resort Community: Tourism and the constant influx of people from all over the world strongly affects our way of life as well as our economy.
  • Arts & Culture: Scottsdale's cultural assets are an integral part of the community and a basis for further development.
  • Health & Research: Scottsdale has a culture of wellness and an optimistic spirit of innovation. Health, biotechnology, computer, and other high-tech businesses are a natural fit for the growing diversity of our community.
The "Entertainment District:"It is clear that the proliferation of bars, with live entertainment, right across the street from a residential neighborhood is having a huge negative impact on our down town residents. This simply cannot be tolerated and this problem must be fixed. Scottsdale is a residential community and tourist destination FIRST, and therefore protection of both our neighborhoods and tourism industry is crucial to our future. The lack of any meaningful response from the current city council is totally unacceptable and must be changed. It is also our belief that the problems created in the Entertainment district are also negatively impacting our tourism industry, so fixing this problem has to be a priority of the next city council.

Expansion of Chaparral Road: It is clear that if the city continues to dramatically increase the population down town, with all these apartments that are being approved lately, we will need to expand all routes into and out of down town. That is why Chaparral Road is an issue, however the city promised years ago it would not be upgraded to provide more lanes and higher traffic volumes. The city should keep promises because residents are making decisions based on those promises. Also, protecting neighborhoods is supposed to be a very high priority. This whole issue gets back to the primary issue, what is the future vision for the city and how do we hold our elected officials to that vision?

Quality of life indicators: The following list contains some of the things are indicators of quality of life. This is not necessarily a complete list, but rather includes some of the top items. Quality of life is one of Scottsdale's major attractions and therefore something that must be protected if not enhanced. All these items also make Scottsdale a desirable destination for tourists who help us pay for all these amenities without high taxes. They all enhance our quality of life.
  • Cultural Amenities - Arts district, Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Art, Art shows, libraries, city service centers, Scottsdale Stadium.
  • Recreational Amenities - Parks, pools, dog parks, recreational trail system, golf courses, the Preserve.
  • City Services
  • Scottsdale's Preserve
  • Low population density - lack of congestion
  • Events - Scottsdale hosts a large number of events of all different types ranging from major national and international events to regional events. Many also support, and are a direct result of, our large equestrian community. Westworld has become a major equestrian and other event center and will host even more events when improvements to it are completed.
  • Scottsdale's equestrian and western heritage. Ranches and private equestrian facilities differentiate Scottsdale from other communities and also attract some of the major equestrian events. Scottsdale's focus on its western heritage is not only a defining characteristic of the city, it is one of the reasons tourists come to Scottsdale.
Future Vision for the city: Having a vision for the future of Scottsdale is critical. All of the haphazard development being approved now is a direct result of not having a vision for the future to benchmark projects against. The lack of a clear unambiguous vision for the future was THE major flaw of the General Plan that was recently turned down by voters. We believe the city should make use of the output of previous visioning process, that took place in the 1990s, which identifies Scottsdale as a high end residential and tourist community. This should be the foundation of any vision for the future and the General Plan that comes out of that vision.

With no vision to guide its future, each city council, developers, and their zoning attorneys are free to develop the city any way they want. Such uncontrolled development is clearly bad for this, or any city. Since Scottsdale is reaching build out (very little land left to develop), it has never been more critical to develop a vision for the future. Currently, the city can go in one of two directions, which are polar opposites.

Two visions for Scottsdale: There are two visions for the city, one the "we must continue to grow" establishment has and one that most of the active residents would like. These two visions are complete opposites.

The main proponents of growth are the Scottsdale Area Chamber of Commerce and of course developers who want to make money off that growth. Continued growth destroys those characteristics that draw people here to visit and live. Continued growth is not a sustainable philosophy because at some point all the negatives of growth, and its resulting high population density, show up and halt additional growth. However when that happens, the city is no longer a desirable place to live. The only way to continue to grow is to build higher and more intense buildings, such as all the really tall apartment buildings being approved by this city council.

On the other hand, most residents want to maintain Scottsdale's desirable character which means growth has to slow down because there isn't much land left to develop. The philosophy is to maintain a low population density, with an emphasis on tourism, which go hand in hand to maintain what makes Scottsdale desirable and special. Low population density insures we remain an uncongested city with a charm and quality of life that attracts both visitors and residents. Low population density also attracts more well to do residents and tourists, both of which are very good for our economy. Tourism supplies the additional income to insure we have world class amenities with relatively low taxes. Maintaining Scottsdale's desirable characteristics is clearly a sustainable path because it has already been shown to be successful.

The General Plan

Why is the General Plan important? The General Plan is the document that guides future development of the city and therefore should define the future of the city, and how to get there. It also matches development to infrastructure to insure development does not stress the existing and/or planned infrastructure which would then require the infrastructure be modified in order to support new development. The cost of such modifications will eventually be passed onto the taxpayers.

What should the General Plan include to assure residents it will retain the characteristics that brought them here? Obviously, the vision of the future is the critical part. The rest of the plan should just define how that vision gets implemented. The vision must be very clear and unambiguous such that everyone knows exactly where the city is headed and what their future city will be and will look like. It must be clear enough, and detailed enough, that it can't be mis-interpreted by anyone. Also, in order to make sure the the plan really reflects the future of our city, it must be very difficult to change it and changes to it should not be approved if they do not clearly provide a public benefit.

Why is the vision in the General Plan so important and what specifically needs to be in it? As mentioned above, the vision not only defines what the city will be in the future, but it is the key element of the plan. To be clear, and unambiguous, it must address the height, density, and character issues, the prime focus for any growth or changes and set a target population.

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